Yesterday we all saw some shocking news in the world of mixed martial arts. We learned that UFC 265 in August will be headlined by an interim title fight between top contenders Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) and Ciryl Gane (9-0).
The two men will battle it out in Houston on August 7th. However, this move was incredibly puzzling to say the least. It’s puzzling due to the fact that Francis Ngannou (16-3) just became the undisputed heavyweight champion at the end of March.
After Ngannou became the champion, he spent a considerable amount of time in Africa to celebrate. Ngannou recently returned to the United States and resumed training in preparation for his first title defense.
For the last month or so, the UFC has been trying hard to book Ngannou against Derrick Lewis for the August PPV. However, with Ngannou’s travel schedule, he told the UFC that he wouldn’t be ready by the beginning of August.
The promotion then came back to Ngannou and asked about UFC 266 in September. Ngannou and his representatives accepted the fight for the end of September and moved forward with their preparations. However, everything changed yesterday.
UFC’s Change of Plans
The UFC had been moving forward with the September fight, but Ciryl Gane’s performance over the weekend made them hedge. After seeing Gane remain perfect by defeating Alexander Volkov, the promotion tried to use it for leverage to get Ngannou to fight in August.
Ngannou’s camp remained firm in their stance that he would defend the title in September, but not at the beginning of August. The UFC ultimately decided to pull the plug on Ngannou all together and booked the interim title fight.
In the history of the promotion, this is the quickest that they’ve ever instituted an interim title. It’s also incredibly interesting that it was made in the heavyweight division considering the title has been defended on average once a year over the past few years.
So now, the UFC’s superstar heavyweight champion is sidelined. This move makes no sense and to me the promotion just cut their nose off to spite their face.